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  1. #1
    GoodTaste is offline Key Member
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    "Where! Where!" - the Chinese self-effacing word that misleads native English speaker

    Jack, an American, was invited to take part in his Chinese friend's wedding ceremony.
    When the bride arrived, Jack cried in admiration:"The bride is so beautiful!"
    His Chinese friend replied with "Where! Where!" - it is a Chinese word (directly translated into English here) that tended to show the replier's humble or modest manner when being flattered.
    But Jack misunderstood it and echoed with "Everywhere! Everywhere! Eyes, nose, month...all are beautiful!"
    All the Chinese guests burst into laughter!

    ===========================
    The question here is what to reply when you want to show a self-efacing gesture when being flattered. "Where! Where!" doesn't seem to work in English.

  2. #2
    GoodTaste is offline Key Member
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    Re: "Where! Where!" - the Chinese self-effacing word that misleads native English spe

    Quote Originally Posted by Piscean View Post
    As the person uttering the words in the situation you outline is not being praised/flattered, he might, if English, reply "I think so too".
    I don't understand. If your friend praised your bride - "The bride is so beautiful!", isn't it a flatter? You can reply with "I think so too" of course. But if you want to show that you're overly flattered (because the bride is yours, your other half, you both are one), if you want to show that you should be modest in accepting such praise because there are many beautiful brides (of other people's) in the world, what do you reply?

  3. #3
    Charlie Bernstein's Avatar
    Charlie Bernstein is offline VIP Member
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    Re: "Where! Where!" - the Chinese self-effacing word that misleads native English spe

    Quote Originally Posted by Piscean View Post
    Any praise of my bride is in no way flattering me. Even something like 'You're a lucky man' or 'You made a good choice' is still praising the bride. I am not being flattered.
    It would probably be interpreted as bragging about how beautiful your bride is. So in that situation "Where, where?" would make sense.
    I'm not a teacher. I speak American English. I've tutored writing at the University of Southern Maine and have done a good deal of copy editing and writing, occasionally for publication.

  4. #4
    SoothingDave is offline VIP Member
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    Re: "Where! Where!" - the Chinese self-effacing word that misleads native English spe

    Except that "where where" does not make sense to a native speaker. Try something like "you're too kind" or "who? me?"

  5. #5
    GoodTaste is offline Key Member
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    Re: "Where! Where!" - the Chinese self-effacing word that misleads native English spe

    Quote Originally Posted by SoothingDave View Post
    "who? me?"
    Can the adjective "beautiful" be used to describe a man? Isn't the word "handsome" sufficient for man to be proud of himself?

  6. #6
    SoothingDave is offline VIP Member
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    Re: "Where! Where!" - the Chinese self-effacing word that misleads native English spe

    Men aren't usually called "beautiful." I was giving general advice on how to deflect a compliment, a way to look humble.

  7. #7
    TheParser is offline VIP Member
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    Re: "Where! Where!" - the Chinese self-effacing word that misleads native English spe

    NOT A TEACHER

    Good Taste, I was fascinated by your thread because I studied a little Chinese many decades ago, but I never learned about "Where Where."

    So I checked the Web and found a good explanation for interested members (and guests). Go to Google and type in these words: How to Ask Where in Chinese. Chinese for us.

  8. #8
    tedmc is online now VIP Member
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    Re: "Where! Where!" - the Chinese self-effacing word that misleads native English spe



    I think there is a miscommunication in the translation of the expression "where? where" (哪里, nali) in Chinese in reply to the compliment about the bride being beautiful. Chinese culture encourages modesty, humility and denial of praises or compliments. But in western culture, when someone gives you a compliment, it is polite to say "thank you". However, in Chinese culture, accepting a compliment like that is considered being proud, so one is expected to be modest and deny the compliment by saying "nali, nali". The literal translation is "where, where?" but it is actually an expression to deny a compliment, like saying, "not at all".
    I am not a teacher or a native speaker.

  9. #9
    Tarheel's Avatar
    Tarheel is offline VIP Member
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    Re: "Where! Where!" - the Chinese self-effacing word that misleads native English spe

    It is, apparently, a definite cultural difference. In my country the polite thing to do when someone gives you a compliment is to say Thank you.
    Not a professional teacher

  10. #10
    GoodTaste is offline Key Member
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    Re: "Where! Where!" - the Chinese self-effacing word that misleads native English spe

    Quote Originally Posted by tedmc View Post


    I think there is a miscommunication in the translation of the expression "where? where" (哪里, nali) in Chinese in reply to the compliment about the bride being beautiful. Chinese culture encourages modesty, humility and denial of praises or compliments. But in western culture, when someone gives you a compliment, it is polite to say "thank you". However, in Chinese culture, accepting a compliment like that is considered being proud, so one is expected to be modest and deny the compliment by saying "nali, nali". The literal translation is "where, where?" but it is actually an expression to deny a compliment, like saying, "not at all".

    Self-effacing is not self-denial. The gist of the traditional Chinese culture is the idea of "Being modest makes you progress while being proud make you regress."

    The translation - "not at all" has made the gist or implication lost and thus is much worse than "Where? Where?", which is a modest way or a humble gesture to show the gratitude in heart (because the speaker is delighted to hear it) - That is, Chinese says "Thank you" in heart while English says "Thank you" in both mouth and heart.

    The phrase "Where? Where?" reflects in a colloquial way the happy medium (中庸之道). The Happy Medium is at the core of traditional Chinese culture or Confucianism. It refuses going to extremes and thus the translation "not at all", which has gone to extremes, is a bust.

    It appears not transferable if limited to a few words. So far "Where? Where?" is one of the best, compromised though, translations because the uncertainty that the phrase shows trickily induces your good wishes.
    Last edited by GoodTaste; 30-Oct-2020 at 16:20.

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